Janet Pierson

Janet Pierson

Head of SXSW Film

South by Southwest

Austin, TX USA

Start with the things that matter to you the most.


By Roadtrip Nation

Janet Pierson


My road in life has been direct.
I grew up in a New York suburb.
I really had no idea what I wanted to do in life until I realized my love for film.
I started studying film at Hampshire College, but the school wasn’t a great fit for me, so I moved to San Francisco and studied film and photography at the San Francisco Art Institute.
One of my teachers urged me to take over a small distribution co-op because it aligned with my passion for experimental films—the job revolved around championing obscure, independent filmmakers.
After hitting a career wall, I moved back to New York and tried a few different conventional jobs that weren’t great fits.
Through some networking, I started working for a woman who was expanding a theater that regularly premiered films that didn’t already have distribution.
I spent the next thirty years continuing to champion independent films and filmmakers in a variety of roles—a lot of which was in collaboration with my husband.
After moving to Austin, Texas, I took a job as the head of film for the South by Southwest Film Conference & Festival.
Keep following my journey


High School
Film & Photography
San Francisco Art Institute


Head of SXSW Film

I am responsible for the vision, programming, and execution of the SXSW Film Conference & Festival.

Career Roadmap

My work combines:
My work combines:
Helping People

Advice for Getting Started

Here's the first step for everyone

Figure out what it is you like to do when you're at rest. For me, that was watching movies. If I had some free time by myself, that's what I would do. I think that's the best way to figure out what kinds of interests and passions you should be pursuing.


The Noise I Shed

From Parents:

"You just need to get a job."

Challenges I Overcame